With Roe v. Wade decision and trigger law, most abortions now illegal in South Dakota
Abortion in South Dakota is now illegal except to save the life of the mother.
That’s because the state passed a law more than 15 years ago to prohibit most abortions in the event Roe v. Wade — the decision affirming a legal right to an abortion — was overturned. The Supreme Court overturned that nearly 50-year-old precedent today.
South Dakota's 2005 trigger law prohibits abortion "unless there is appropriate and reasonable medical judgment that performance of an abortion is necessary to preserve the life of the pregnant female." That’s the only exception in the law.
The law further says "any person who administers to any pregnant female or who prescribes or procures for any pregnant female" a means for an abortion is guilty of a Class 6 felony, punishable by two years in prison, a $4,000 fine, or both.
Former Republican legislator Joel Dykstra sponsored the trigger law. He said the law was the position of the Legislature at that time.
“We were in favor of this abortion policy, but we were barred by the Supreme Court from it going into effect,” Dykstra said. “The Supreme Court decision removes that barrier.”
Dale Bartscher is the executive director of South Dakota Right To Life, an anti-abortion group.
“South Dakota will finally be able to ensure that every life of every unborn child in our state is protected. Quite frankly, if I had confetti I’d be tossing it high right now,” he said.
The state's only abortion provider, Planned Parenthood, had already paused abortions in the days leading up to the decision. Clinic officials say they will not resume abortions at the Sioux Falls clinic, but the facility remains open for other services.
“The U.S. Supreme Court decision is wrong and will harm millions of people,” said Sarah Stoesz, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood North Central States. “This decision is an unconscionable rollback of fundamental rights for all people in the United States. Because people’s right to access abortion is no longer guaranteed by federal law, it now depends on where you live and how much money you have to travel out of state for abortion care. Forced pregnancy is a grave violation of human rights and dignity."
Planned Parenthood North Central States officials say their clinics in Nebraska, Iowa and Minnesota are still open and the organization remains committed to providing access to a full range of reproductive healthcare.
“We have been preparing for months to be able to best serve patients across our region. Our doors are open and Planned Parenthood is committed to providing abortion care where it remains legal," Stoesz said.
The organization says it will expand access in Minnesota and Iowa for patients traveling out of state. The group has also hired a patient navigator to help with logistics.
Dr. Sarah Traxler, chief medical officer with the regional Planned Parenthood organization, performed the last abortion in South Dakota. She says the patient’s reason was like most patients she’s seen.
“She was a young mother and she already had children. She was struggling to make ends meet and couldn’t imagine bringing another child into that circumstance,” Traxler said. “Thankfully, she was able to make decisions about her family that were right for her.”
Traxler says women in South Dakota are now subject to the opinions of legislators.
Even though abortion is now illegal in most cases in the state, Gov. Kristi Noem has said she will call a special session to take up more abortion-related policy. The governor has not provided any specific proposals or details.
Noem signaled her desire to pass more anti-abortion legislation in a written statement.
“Every abortion always had two victims: the unborn child and the mother. Today’s decision will save unborn lives in South Dakota, but there is more work to do,” Noem said. “We must do what we can to help mothers in crisis know that there are options and resources available for them. Together, we will ensure that abortion is not only illegal in South Dakota — it is unthinkable.”
Kim Floren is with JEN South Dakota. It’s a group that provides financial assistance for abortion procedures and travel costs for those who need to go out of state seeking abortions.
She says people in East River will have a two- to five-hour drive for an abortion.
“West River, people are looking at going to Colorado, Montana. Those tend to be more like six- to seven-hour drives minimum,” she said.
Floren says that could create a strain where abortion remains legal.
“Because the clinics that are in the states that people from states like South Dakota will be going to, are going to be overbooked and inundated," Floren added. "Scheduling is going to be out so far that people in those states are also going to have a hard time accessing care.”